Jenna Bush Hager Says Her 'Feminist' Father Inspired Her to Raise Strong Daughters

Former first daughter Jenna Bush Hager says that she raises her kids, Poppy and Mila, like her dad George W. Bush raised her and her twin sister

When it comes to raising her daughters Poppy, 20 months, and Mila, 4, Jenna Bush Hager says she learned from the best: Her dad, former president George W. Bush and mom Laura Bush.

“I think the thing that my parents did so well and might surprise people, although I don’t know why, is that they really wanted us to be curious, independent thinkers,” the Today correspondent tells PEOPLE. “They wanted to raise us to have our own views and to be able to articulate them.”

She says that as kids, she and her twin sister Barbara Pierce Bush “always felt sorry for the boys in [their] class because our dad led us to believe that we were the smartest, most capable kids out there,” she says.

“People laugh at this, but I think my dad was a feminist. He showed us that we could be whatever we wanted to be. I want my girls to feel that way. I want them to feel strong and capable and feel like they can conquer the world.”

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Though bringing her daughters up in New York City might seem worlds away from the small town of Midland, Texas, where she grew up, she says that her goal as a mother doesn’t differ. “The most important thing is to raise loving humans,” she says.

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“Her teacher said that Mila’s really empathetic and that when somebody in her class feels sad, she feels sad, and when somebody’s happy, she feels happy,” Bush Hager says. “Like I’m going to do right now, I broke into tears because, to me, that’s what’s most important is to raise really kind girls — and I’m so happy my girls are kind.”

For more from Jenna Bush Hager and more celebrity families, pick up PEOPLE’s World’s Most Beautiful issue, on newsstands Friday.

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